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Research project to examine impact of journalist redundancies

New BeatsIn the wake of the mass journalist redundancies of 2012, a group of academics has launched a research project to examine the impact of the jobs cuts on Australian journalism and related industries.

According to the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the union which represents journalists, 2012 saw the departure of 1000-1200 from the profession, while a further 200-300 have been made redundant so far this year.

Project leader Lawrie Zion said the study, called New Beats, will examine what impact the loss of more than 10 per cent of Australia’s journalists from mainstream media outlets will have over the long term.

“The project really comes from this question of what’s going to happen to all these journalists who became redundant,” said Zion, a journalism academic from La Trobe University in Melbourne.

“(From our initial research) what is interesting to see is that people are changing tack or going into new and different projects in journalism, but I think the full wash up of what has happened will take a while to play out.”

Zion will lead a team of academics that includes the University of Canberra’s Matthew Ricketson, a key author of the Finkelstein Report, Penny O’Donnell from the University of Sydney, Tim Majoribanks from La Trobe University and Andrew Dodd from Swinburne.

The topics that the team will be looking at include: the income levels of former journalists, the retention or loss of craft journalism skills, the extent of training that is available and undertaken by former journalists and the extent to which journalism experience forms the basis for new career directions.

“What interests me is how will people go through that change over three to five years and what will journalism gain from that, with a number of people moving into different areas of the profession,” said Zion.

“There is also the question of what will former journalists be able to contribute to other professions and areas of professional life.”

Zion said one of the reasons for calling the project Newbeats was that while some would find new journalism “beats” within the profession others would choose to leave to work in other industries such as public relations.

“One reason we called it New Beats is that we wanted to make this a very open ended question,” said Zion, “what I am expecting is that we will find the whole gamut of people who are seeing this an opportunity to change direction within journalism.”

“We’re also seeing a lot of people who want to take a break or go into a new area and so by calling it Newbeats we wanted to acknowledge people were going to be doing new things but that may or may not be include a purposeful decision to stay in journalism.”

According to the New Beats website the project’s aim is also to “create a network of journalists who became redundant last year to share information and gather data on jobs, demand for journalistic expertise” and journalists who are interested in participating in the study can do so via the website.

“One thing we are mindful of is the amount of expertise in that group. It is very rich body of skills and experience and I think there a number of professions that are going to benefit from that, and that includes journalism, but also other areas and I think it is going to be interesting to see how it unfolds,” said Zion.

Nic Christensen 

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